Iceland’s Myvatn, Unlocked
Today we explored the Lake Myvatn area of North Iceland. In the space of just a few hours we saw craters, a massive geothermal area, a city of lava formations, a peek into the Grotagia Thermal Cave, a string of pseudocraters, and of course, the 14 square mile lake.
Located about 30 minutes from our base of Husavik, the landscape on the way was rolling hills surrounded by pastures. Once we reached the Myvtan area we headed to the Namafjall Geothermal Area. Much larger than the area we saw in the Golden Circle, this massive site is filled with steaming vents and bubbling mud pots. The smell of hydrogen sulfide fumes is pretty overwhelming, but when you put together the smell, the sound of the rapidly bubbling liquid, and the otherwise barren, sandy moonscape appearance you feel like you are on a set of a sci-fi movie.
From there we ventured a bit further down the road past the Krafla Geothermal Power Plant to see the Viti (Hell) Crater. Formed during eruptions in the 1720s, the crater is filled with hot water. Not as colorful as our last crater in the Golden Circle, but nevertheless it cut an imposing figure.
Next stop, the Grjotagia Thermal Cave where one of the Game of Thrones most memorable scenes took place. The love scene between John Snow and Ygritte. It’s a smaller space than I would’ve guessed and it must’ve been complicated to get all the necessary filming equipment on location. When we visited a bunch of people were crammed in the cave taking selfies and after going part way in, I decided not to hang around. As a result, I did not get a great pic. Above the cave, you can follow the path to the top and view a really long fissure created by a buckled ridge of lava. On private land, this site is not always open to the public.
Getting closer to the lake, we started to see the famous midges, the flying (non-biting) insects that give the lake its name, Myvatn (midges). We had brought along head nets and they did come in handy as we wandered around the Dimmuborgir Lava Formations. Aptly named “Dark Castles,” the saga tells us this is where the devil landed when he was cast out of heaven. I can believe it. The huge formations were actually created underwater when magma leaked up making all sorts of dramatic shapes. Several trails are laid out through the sensitive terrain and it’s easy to see imagery and figures (think trolls) in the rocks. I didn’t realize til later, this was the site of Mance Rayder’s army camp in the Game of Thrones Season 3. Honestly, this is not a Game of Thrones Tour, I just keep bumping into sites and realizing how much they filmed here.
The midges are pretty bad and swarm this time of year. It makes hanging around the lake pretty undesirable. Since boating is restricted, the lake appears quiet, calm, and otherwise peaceful (if it weren’t for the midges). Those bugs do have their purpose, they help make the area prime breeding ground for about 115 species of birds that live and migrate through. If fact, during our lunch stop in Reykjahlid we ran into a group that was on a bird watching tour, no doubt they would be checking out the nearby Sigurgeir’s Bird Museum.
The Skutustadir Pseudocraters provided our final stop in this region. You can see the crater-like mounds in a huge area. They were formed when giant bubbles formed in molten lava and then burst when steam rose to the top. This was a type of landscape new to us, something we’d never seen.
Many draw comparisons between this area and Yellowstone National Park. Other than the fact they both have geothermal fields, to me, they seem distinctly different. I give the Lake Myvatn area due respect for being its own unique spot on earth.